SpaceX, Boeing (and NASA) Push Back 1st Test Launches of Private Spaceships

SpaceX plans to use its Falcon 9 launcher and Dragon capsule to carry astronauts

SpaceX plans to use its Falcon 9 launcher and Dragon capsule to carry astronauts

Officials on Wednesday set March 2 as the latest launch date.

The new U.S. spacecraft Dragon 2 will be launched for an unmanned mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 2, a source in the Russian space industry told Sputnik on Wednesday.

NASA also hopes to send astronauts into space using capsules made by Boeing.

The Crew Dragon and Starliner spacecraft are the centerpieces of NASA's drive to resume launching USA astronauts aboard US rockets from US soil, ending the agency's sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry crew members to and from the International Space Station. Once they are completed, the Starliner will be certified by NASA for regular flights to the ISS.

"Following the test flights, NASA will review performance data and resolve any necessary issues to certify the systems for operational missions", the agency said. Though they're essentially practice runs, they're still big launches, as the Commercial Crew Program will eventually be used to take astronauts from the USA to the International Space Station.

SpaceX had been targeting February 23 for Crew Dragon's shakeout cruise to the ISS, an uncrewed flight called Demo-1.

NASA's commercial crew program has been delayed repeatedly over the years, forcing a lengthy, expensive reliance on Russian rockets.

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"NASA's Commercial Crew Program will return human spaceflight launches to USA soil, providing safe, reliable and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit and the space station", the agency said, "on systems that meet safety and performance requirements".

These initial flights in the Commercial Crew Program will be unmanned.

The capsule then will be readied for an in-flight abort test in June. If all goes well, the first time we could actually see humans in a Crew Dragon might be July, followed by a crewed test flight for Starliner in August. The rocket performed a static fire test on the pad January 24 that the company said was successful.

Whenever they take off, Behnken and Hurley plan to stay aboard the station for about a week before returning to Earth with another Atlantic Ocean splashdown.

Boeing, meanwhile, is shooting for an April launch of its first Starliner capsule without a crew. The Starliner will blast off from pad 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, riding into space atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. But launch dates for both flights have just been pushed to the right, NASA announced today (Feb. 6).

According to NASA, the July launch will not only be historic, but cheap as well.

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